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The Watering Hole - Conversations on 21st. Century religion.

Accepting Forgiveness

It's difficult for most people


Guilt and shame over things we've done puts a stop to a happy life. But accepting forgiveness is difficult. Here is help in finding the path forward, even for atheists.

Accepting Forgiveness

Accepting forgiveness for ourselves is a difficult thing for everyone. We don’t dismiss harm we have done to others lightly. If we did we would be psychopaths, and even most psychopaths don’t want to hurt others.

One reason people don't accept forgiveness is that they dwell on their own guilt. People don't forget the things they've done and those often haunt them. Grief becomes our new home. Dwelling on the bad things we have done is rejecting forgiveness. From an article in Prevention, "... many of us unconsciously decide to punish ourselves by feeling miserable for the rest of our lives." "Forgiveness … does not mean that you condone or excuse what happened. It does not mean that you forget," says Luskin. "There's a season for our suffering and regret. We have to have that. But the season ends; the world moves on. And we need to move on with it."
- https://www.prevention.com/life/g20512857/how-to-forgive-yourself-no-matter-what/

Possibly the worst thing we can do is not forgive ourselves. It's very destructive to ourselves and others.

An example of the worst is from someone commenting on Quora, who lives in New Zealand and works in a prison, about those who commit murder: "The ones that don't cope so well are the average person that no one thought would kill someone. They struggle in many ways to cope after, most common is unable to sleep for weeks after as they're having flash backs and nightmares, personal hygiene and appetite declines and they exhibit signs of severe depression."

To refuse forgiveness is to accept an anchor on our life that only drags us down to the depths of despair and prevents us from moving forward in your life, and prevents the things that you might do for yourself and others. It drives a wedge between ourselves and others, preventing us from being a benefit to others’ lives. Guilt and shame are the most tragic weapons of all. They prevent us from doing good. They often change how we view ourselves, seeing ourselves as only bad, and trapping us in bad behavior forever.

Even harm that we do in self-defense, if we harm others, we often feel very bad about it. Every bad thing people do can be forgiven by God for those who are truly sorry, even atheists. The only thing that can't be overcome is actually rejecting God. That doesn't mean not believing there is a God, it means refusing the better ways that are asked of us.

If we aren’t numb to hurting others, then we learn from the things we’ve done. We learn not to do them again. From experience we gain wisdom.

Recognize you are a bigger, more mature person

Forgive others. You are unlikely to forgive yourself if you harbor hard feelings toward what others have done to you. I like to say I don’t have the time to devote to hating others. It’s a huge drain of time and energy to reject that person and wish bad things for them. It can become an obsession that destroys you. As many have wisely said, resenting or hating another is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. It does more harm to us. Jesus was really big on forgiveness. He said, forgive and you will be forgiven.

To forgive ourselves demands we stop dwelling on what we have done, gain some perspective, and accept that our lives are not meant to be wrecked by things we’ve done wrong. We are meant to change, live our lives to the fullest, and do things for ourselves and others, perhaps even great things.

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression …? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” - Micah 7:18

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” - John 10:10

At the extreme: In the Bible, Moses, King David, and the Apostle Paul all had murdered someone. Moses killed a supervisor who was beating a man. David sent a man into battle on the front lines so that he would be killed and David would get his wife. Paul went around with a group persecuting and stoning Christians. Yet God later used them to do great things.

John Newton was one of the nastiest people alive. He was also a slave trader who brought people from Africa to be enslaved in the US. Over a period of time he developed faith in God, having been saved from a storm and later having been enslaved himself. He became a minister and wrote the song Amazing Grace. He is one of the best examples of going from the worst to the best.

Steps toward forgiveness

If we can, go to the person you hurt and make amends. It may require just apologizing and asking for their forgiveness. It may require compensating that person for an injury. It may require just be being kind to others going forward. Being kind to others is the sincerest form of expressing your regret and accepting forgiveness. Accept who you have become rather than who you were.

We can’t always make amends with people. We can write them an apology letter, then burn it. Watch as fire consumes and it all goes up in smoke.

- Dorian

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- Dorian

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